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PLoS One. 2013 Nov 11;8(11):e79988. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0079988. eCollection 2013.

"Let's talk about OA pain": a qualitative analysis of the perceptions of people suffering from OA. Towards the development of a specific pain OA-Related questionnaire, the Osteoarthritis Symptom Inventory Scale (OASIS).

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Multidisciplinary Pain Centre, Division of Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology & Division of General Medical Rehabilitation, Geneva University Hospitals and University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.



Pain is the primary outcome measurement in osteoarthritis, and its assessment is mostly based on its intensity. The management of this difficult chronic condition could be improved by using pain descriptors to improve analyses of painful sensations. This should help to define subgroups of patients based on pain phenotype, for more adapted treatment. This study draws upon patients' descriptions of their pain, to identify and understand their perception of osteoarthritis pain and to categorize pain dimensions.


This qualitative study was conducted with representative types of patients suffering from osteoarthritis. Two focus groups were conducted with a sample of 14 participants, with either recent or chronic OA, at one or multiple sites. Focus groups were semi-structured and used open-ended questions addressing personal experiences to explore the experiences of patients with OA pain and the meanings they attributed to these pains.


TWO MAIN POINTS EMERGED FROM CONTENT ANALYSES: -A major difficulty in getting patients to describe their osteoarthritis pain: perception that nobody wants to hear about it; necessity to preserve one's self and social image; notion of self-imposed stoicism; and perception of osteoarthritis as a complex, changing, illogical disease associated with aging. -Osteoarthritis pains were numerous and differed in intensity, duration, depth, type of occurrence, impact and rhythm, but also in painful sensations and associated symptoms. Based on analyses of the verbatim interviews, seven dimensions of OA pain emerged: pain sensory description, OA-related symptoms, pain variability profile, pain-triggering factors, pain and physical activity, mood and image, general physical symptoms.


In osteoarthritis, pain analysis should not be restricted to intensity. Our qualitative study identified pain descriptors and defined seven dimensions of osteoarthritis pain. Based on these dimensions, we aim to develop a specific questionnaire on osteoarthritis pain quality for osteoarthritis pain phenotyping: the OsteoArthritis Symptom Inventory Scale (OASIS).

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